There’s an enjoyably perplexing quality to Chicago trio Heath&Beauty’s new album, No Scare. Opening with “Back to the Place” — its title indicative of the sidewise humor which marks the songs of songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Brian J. Sulpizio — the record begins haltingly with distorted falsetto and light strums, before tangled guitar lines and a stuttering drum beat lurch in. It sets the template for what follows, a pull between cluttered beauty and lilting melodies. Along with keyboardist Ben Boye and drummer Frank Rosaly, Sulpizio find clever ways to insert odd touches into every corner of the song’s scant two minutes: “woo-woos,” discordant riffs, and crashing piano runs.

Technically, Health&Beauty’s existed for something like 15 years, initially as a recording project of Sulpizio’s. “I just hung onto the name because I couldn’t find a better one,” he says, but No Scare marks the recorded debut of this current lineup, which solidified in 2012, under the long running banner. If the group sounds more seasoned and comfortable than should be expected, that’s because it is: the lead up to No Scare‘s release found the group working out the songs for years and touring and recording with songwriter Ryley Walker, appearing on his 2015 album Primrose Green and on his latest, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung.

Health&Beauty :: Asunción & Dayanara

“I’ve known Ryley since he was 19 — at some point I asked him to teach me how to play finger-picking guitar and he said, ‘No,’ because I could just do it,” Sulpizio laughs.

But while they share a similar stylistic flourish, Sulpizio’s guitar work draws from more aggressive and rock-based traditions than Walker’s: the freneticism of Sonny Sharrock, the entwined web of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore’s work on Sonic Youth’s Murray Street (a pivotal influence, Sulpizio says), the weighty thud of Neil Young.

Initially, he was drawn to Chicago’s experimental underground and its confluence of jazz, electronics, and improvised approaches.

“When I was 20, 23, I started going to see music at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago, watching the AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians] or Umbrella Music people, and really got deep into that as a guitarist and a drummer,” he says. “It became very frustrating for me; I was never comfortable with that stuff moving around totally structureless, so I would create these riffs, really simple song forms that left room for improvisation, and I’d perform them almost like exercises.”

That creative tension is still at work on No Scare, which alternates between complex arrangements and open-ended improvisation.

“There’s a lot that’s pretty tightly arranged, but if you hear things that don’t happen more than once, those are probably improvised,” he says citing one of the record’s best songs, “Beyond Beyoncé,” with its clattering electric keys and bluesy backbone.

“It’s pretty determined where the song will rise and fall, but what happens in them is different moment-by-moment,” Sulpizio says. “It makes it more fun to play songs like that. The fewer people you have playing, the freer you can be, the more nimble.”

Like Golden Sings That Can’t Be Sung, No Scare finds a balance between the spontaneity of live performance and the textured deliberation of the recording studio.

“At some point, I came back around to writing actually songs,” Sulpizio says of his early experimentation, but he notes: “I kept it in my mind that things could be looser…I want to make something that can develop and move and change over time.”

No idea on No Scare, which is full of them, feels forced over overthought. The songs allow for space and time and freedom, which makes for a richer record.

“Whatever catches your mind at the moment,” Sulpizio says, “is what you go with.” words / j woodbury


ain’t it funky, now…

Annette Peacock :: Pony

AD mix_2

In recurring August fashion we offer the latest in a series of exploratory, atmospheric mixtapes. True to its seasonal home, like its predecessors, The Palm Trees Fall into the Sea exudes a humid, tropical ambiance. Below, dig into a thirty track experiment in openness across the spatial and temporal – and hopefully the spiritual.

The Palm Trees Fall Into The Sea: An August Mixtape

MH-8007_Cover_400Sometimes it’s all about right place, right time. When a 21-year-old Jack Miller camped out at the short-lived Jazz Mill night club in Phoenix, Arizona, for a few nights in late March of 1954, it was just to catch some sets by jazz guitarist Barney Kessel. Of course, with his Knight tape recorder in hand, a small mixer and three mics, he also had an ear for preservation, recording the sound of Kessel and the house band, the Jazz Millers, getting down. Miller scarcely could have known that 62 years later, his recordings would see official release: Barney Kessel: Live at the Jazz Mill 1954, out now via Modern Harmonic Records.

The stand at the Jazz Mill followed Kessel’s stint with the Oscar Peterson Trio, and found the guitarist in a sharp, playful mood. Backed by Pete Jolly on piano, Gene Stoffell on bass, and drummer Art Kile, Kessel tears through standards like Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band” and Harold Arlen’s “Get Happy,” but offers slower, soulful fare too, like the swooning “Stardust,” punctuated by Jolly’s heavily chorded piano, and a gorgeous and ethereal take on the Gershwins’ “Embraceable You.”

Kessel was likely reminded of home while in Phoenix. He grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where “People didn’t just talk about jazz, they lived it” and “jazzmen and cowboys lived side by side,” as Jim Carlton’s notes quote Kessel, and though Phoenix was in the midst of explosive growth in those years, bolstered by advancements in air conditioning, there was still enough of a dusty quality to the town’s tenor to suite Kessel.

Meanwhile, it was just the beginning of Jack Miller’s long career as a legendary audio engineer. He passed away earlier this year at the age of 83, but left a considerable mark in the world of record making. He had a crucial hand in crafting the hits of Duane Eddy, working with ace producer Lee Hazlewood at Audio Recorders Studio in Phoenix. Eventually, he found his way to Hollywood where he made records with the Stones, the Monkees, Jefferson Airplane and many more. He returned to Arizona, joining the Canyon Records team, where he served as chief engineer, recording traditional and contemporary Native American music for the label founded by Ray and Mary Boley in 1951 (just a few years before Miller would record Kessel’s sets at the Jazz Mill).

In an essential 2001 Tape Op Magazine interview, Miller laid out his audio philosophy. Discussing recording with Tucson cowpunk Al Perry he says, “…if the band is playing for real and you want to hear it for real, just leave it to be what it is.” Live at the Jazz Mill 1954 assuredly demonstrates that Miller — on stage or in the studio — knew how to capture things in the moment, true snap shots of real musical happenings, even at the very beginning of his career. Right place, right time, right man. words / j woodbury

Barney Kessel :: How About You (live)

coverDuring the 90s and the first part of the millennium there was a great UK based mail order psychedelic music store called the Freak Emporium. Their catalogs were as fun to read as  the music was to listen to. It would be impossible for all of the albums listed to be as mind-blowing as described, but one of the platters that lived up to the hype was a mysterious album called The Gnostic Mass by a group calling themselves The Entheogens.

The cover art features an alluring female hand beckoning the listener to come behind a set of closed purple curtains decorated with stars. Combined with the album’s title it takes on the feel of an invitation to an ancient cult. But an invitation to what end? The flipside shows the band members in negative unexposed film images donning ceremonial robes, furthering the effect.

Entheogens, besides being psychoactive chemicals extracted from plants, were a temporary collective of Swedish musicians who delved in an adventurous yet melodic brand of Eastern-flavored psychedelia; mostly acoustically, using guitar, sitar, flute, organ, glockenspiel, bouzouki, and various percussion instruments. Guitarist and indie-label head Stefan Kery was ostensibly the de facto leader, releasing the album in a limited edition of 500 copies (re-released digitally a few years ago) on his Xotic Mind label. The imprint eventually morphed into Subliminal Sounds, still going strong today, and has the distinction of being the label that eclectic psych/folk rockers Dungen started on.

The Entheogens :: Io Pan

Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 444: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Stereolab – Diagonals ++ Atlas Sound (w/ Laetitia Sadler) – Quick Canal ++ Suicide – Cheree ++ David Bowie – A New Career In A New Town ++ The Only Ones – The Whole of Law ++ Cass McCombs – Bum Bum Bum ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – Mask On Mask ++ The Limiñanas – 3 Migas 2000 ++ Woods – Sun City Creeps ++ Allah-Las – Strange Heat ++ Augustus Pablo – AP Special ++ Steve Gunn – Ancient Jules ++ Ryley Walker – The Halfwit In Me ++ 75 Dollar Bill – Beni Said (edit) ++ Kraftwerk – Transistor (AD edit) ++ Sam Spence – Sunken Ship ++ Petalouda – What You Can Do In Your Life ++ Viet Cong – Static Wall ++ Tubeway Army – Bombers ++ Jeff Phelps – Excerpts From Autumn ++ White Fence – Trouble Is Trouble Never Seen ++ W-X – Intro ++ Drinks – Cheerio ++ David Nance – Pure Evil ++ Guided By Voices – World of Fun ++ Cass McCombs – Big Wheel ++ Ultimate Painting – Kodiak ++ The Brunettes – The Records Store ++ Jonathan Richman – Parties In The U.S.A. ++ Yo La Tengo – Here Comes My Baby ++ Jim O’Rourke – All Your Love ++ Jonathan Rado – Seven Horses

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

Guided By Voices

The club is open. Friday night, Aquarium Drunkard presents Guided By Voices at the Teragram. Get tickets, HERE. Wanna roll? Hit us up in the comments with your favorite GBV era; we’ll slide a few pairs to some of y’all at random.

lou barlow

If a band’s going to stage a “comeback,” there are few greater examples of doing it right than the one put down by Dinosaur Jr.

Since reforming in 2005, the original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph have gone on to put out more albums since reuniting than the three classics they released in the ‘80s — Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me, and Bug – helping to cement the framework of “alternative rock” in the process. Their latest, the quizzically titled Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, is one of their strongest yet, 11 jammers alternating between whopping riffs and folky sway. Mascis’ signature drawl sounds as craggy as ever, his toasty guitar solos effortless; Murph’s drums are locked in and boomy; Barlow offers his thick, melodic bass and sings two of the record’s best songs.

The fruitful return of Dinosaur Jr. was anything but assured. After Mascis fired Barlow from the band post-Bug, the bassist launched off on his own prolific and influential career, forming Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, and often remarking publicly about his dissatisfaction with Mascis.  Eventually, he began releasing records under his own name, maintaining a bare, sometimes shockingly honest emotional tone. But time has a way of smoothing out the creases, and Barlow seems perfectly at ease with his role in Dinosaur Jr. these days.

“When we came around to making these reunion records, [they didn’t turn out] a whole lot different from what J had been doing,” Barlow says. “He’s been remarkably consistent throughout his career. So having Murph and I come back in, we kind of came into his ongoing story.”

His solo output hasn’t slowed since rejoining – Sebadoh released Defend Yourself in 2013, and a solo album, Brace the Wave, followed in 2015, and he’s readying an EP for release by the end of the year.  He’s feeling creative since moving back to Massachusetts from Los Angeles,  putting him closer to his Dinosaur Jr. bandmates, which has brought “this kid of ease and flow to stuff I haven’t had of a while, for a very long while,” the bassist says.

Below, edited excerpts from an early morning phone talk with Barlow, about the familial connections between Dinosaur Jr. and his work outside the band, about not being classically “cool” and about the uncomfortable realizations that accompany personal growth.

Dinosaur Jr. :: Tiny

Aquarium Drunkard: Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is an excellent album — each of these new records has been better than the last, I think. When you initially reunited more than a decade ago, what kind of discussions did you have about the state of things? Was there any talk about continuing on after making Beyond? 

Lou Barlow: We don’t have strategy talks. We never did. [Laughs] Every record could be the last as far as I know, has been since the beginning, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.


Sandy Denny played with plenty of great bands in her all-too-brief life, from The Strawbs to Fairport Convention to Fotheringay. She even jammed with Led Zeppelin. But the British singer-songwriter didn’t need anything more than her voice, accompanied by acoustic guitar or piano, to captivate listeners. Sometimes she didn’t even need an instrument: check out the spine-tingling a capella rendition of Richard Farina’s “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood,” captured on this tape of a 1973 solo performance in the Mile High City.

The rest of the set is stellar, too, highlighted gorgeous renditions of “Late November” and “The Music Weaver” and an extremely intense “John the Gun.” Best of all is “At the End of the Day,” a swooning love song rescued from its overproduced studio counterpart, and presented here in stark, breathtaking form. Sandy passed away close to four decades ago, but listening in to this tape, she sounds as vivid and powerful as ever. words / t wilcox

Download: Sandy Denny :: Ebbets Field, Denver, Colorado, April 1973

Late November / The Music Weaver / It Suits Me Well / Bushes & Briars / The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood / The Sea Captain / At the End of the Day / John the Gun